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(June 16, 2002)


speechful again, I'm afraid

I'm feeling quite tired today - tomorrow is the 17th day in a row I've been up at 7:30, which may be normal for the breeders among you, but makes an entirely new experience for me.

So, yesterday Germany beat Paraguay in the worst game I've ever seen outside Ashton Gate, and thus earnt a not especially richly deserved quarter-final against Mexico or the USA.

You may also have heard that England beat Denmark 3-0. This scoreline arose because England played very well, but also due to the apparent Danish desire to make reparations for their poor behaviour during the ninth century. Goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson appeared to have a particularly bad case of liberal guilt.

We (not you and me personally, of course) meet Brazil or Belgium in the quarter final. People keep saying things like "I hope Brazil beat Belgium so we get the pleasure of knocking them out", in a way that reminds me of Napoleon invading Russia because after all he'd done quite well so far. I hope we get Belgium, for all the obvious sensible reasons, but I'd be very surprised if we didn't get Brazil.

If the other second round results go the way you might expect, that means that the German path to the semi-finals goes through Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Cameroon, Paraguay and Mexico, while ours goes through Sweden, Argentina, Nigeria, Denmark and Brazil. Who beat who in the qualifying round again?

The good news is, if we get to the semi-finals we get our easiest game so far, against Japan, Turkey or Senegal, while the Germans get Spain, South Korea or Italy.

Today started with a lovely entertaining game between Sweden and Senegal. Sweden took the lead, but Senegal equalised in the second half, before winning the game with a golden goal at the end of the first period of extra time. For anyone who doesn't know, in extra time now the first team to score wins there and then. If no-one scores after 30 minutes (15 minutes each way), the game goes to penalties.

Apparently they are thinking about abolishing the golden goals and just having normal extra time again, but I quite like them. It can lead to negative play, but I think the added tension of knowing that one good shot ends it outweighs that. The Swedes hit the post just before the Senegalese scored, which gives the Swedes something to wallow in for the next 4 years.

Having said that, the Spanish wasted their extra time against Ireland by playing a flat back ten and daring the Irish to come at them, which they did with great vigour but no actual goals. Previously, the Spanish had taken the lead after 7 minutes, then the Irish missed a penalty. They equalised from another one just before the end though after Hierro had tried to remove Quinn's shirt and caress his nipples. He was booked for it, which was lucky for him - if the nipples had become erect he'd have been sent off.

The Spaniards obviously guessed the Irish would bottle the penalties, and they were right, Connolly, Kilbane and Holland all missing. They might not have guessed Valeron and Juanfran would both shoot wide, but Mendieta stepped up calmly and scored to win for Spain (1-1, 3-2 on penalties).

Sad for the Irish, but as we all know supporting a football team is like crawling down a stony path to the vale of tears at the end, and anyone who expects different soon learns.


posted by Jon 22:33
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